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September 16, 2005


Wes Roberts

...excellent post! May I use your words in a future time of sharing with pastors? Keep your potent insight coming...this olde man needs them.


thanks for these thoughts Ryan.



I find this post a silly post. It is so generalised that it becomes meaningless. There are certainly people outside of the church who probably live more Christlike lives then some inside the church. But the reverse is probably also the case. Same can be said of those in either the institutional forms of the church and those in the emergent church. I find genalisations like these are not helpful. If we talk of the self-named emerging church as the alternative andf the way forward (as opposed to one way forward) then we have learned nothing from previous attempts to reform our forms of church. The sooner the name 'emerging' is dropped and the sooner we stop generalising about it (either positively or negatively) the better I say.


Wess Daniels

I don't really see where there are generalizations in this post, I guess the main issue i would point out to Andrew is that he missed the important point of what you had to say.

First it seems that the "world" or in this case liberal politicians expect more out of Jesus and his so-called followers, than his followers actually do. People outside the church are not stupid, they know what Jesus stood for, and they know what he wanted to accomplish. Most of them look at the world and questioned whether he did anything good for it at all, and the church is to be blamed for this (in my opinion). If we, the so-called followers of Christ, are to outdo, or undercut/subvert the expectations of the world, he have to raise our expectations of ourself and be aware that what Jesus said we are actually to do...the US Christians could begin by "loving your enemies."

Second, I don't hear you saying that the emerging church is the only group that has everything right, in fact I know you would critique parts of it - its a human institution that hopes to be like Christ not be Christ (perfect). Rather, the emerging church has been more willing to give the world, the time of day. A majority of the church has been so afraid of anything outside conservative fundamentalism and right wing politics that it refuses to actually listen to the world. And thats it, we need to just listen and understand that all people being created in God's image are valuable to be heard. This is where hospitality comes in (something the emerging church has taken as a very important practice) and learning the art of giving space to others. The Spirit of Christ speaks through the world, and all people - not all the time, not infallibly - but as George Fox said 400 years ago "there is a seed of God in everyone." We should take that notion more seriously today, especially when those who don't profess to know Christ appear to do better at understanding what he wanted from us.

aaron peterson

Hey Ryan. didn't Dr. Mouw write an article recently stating that he would like to see the Beattitudes posted in public places?


Let me clarify something because I just reread the post and my comment and wish to change what I found silly! It is not the concept being expressed in the post (hardly, which I grant could have been what was Wess read into it) but the notion that any branch of the church (in this case the emergent church) is any more prophetic or faithful or motivated or whatever... by this then others. You just can't generalise like that. I know of plenty of emerging churches that serve as prophetic reminders of this and others that are little more then therapeutic excuses for a generation to exist away from the others in its' 'church style'. Same can be said for other forms of church life too.

Ryan Bolger

Andrew, I'm sorry you found the post silly. I don't believe I said that the Emerging Church had a corner on all things prophetic. I'm just saying that some of the Emerging Church leaders I have interviewed maintain an emphasis on the ethical life of Christ as exemplary (a la Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright). I think you will find that an emphasis on Jesus as example (such as in the Sermon on the Mount) has been more the exception than the rule in Western church life. I'm sorry that you find this as too general, I tried to be specific.


Fair enough and thanks for the comments but I still don't think we can generalise about any branch of the church and I don't think that it can be fairly said that the emerging church has a greater commitment to an ethical approach to the faith. Even when when you say 'some leaders' I could also find 'some leaders' in established/ institutional areas of the church with the same commitments, perhaps even a greater demonstrated commitment over many years.

Liz Ruiz

I think Andrew should step away from the viewpoint of the Emergent being a branch of the church or a "denomination" of sorts. My understanding is that Emergent is an attitude of focus on Christ's exemplary lifestyle and valuing that example over some of those traditional church behaviors that have not stemmed from Jesus, but maybe have stemmed from outside influences over the history of the church's progression. I would say that no matter what denomination you are in (if any), you may still find many people with emergent hearts who are practitioners of this focus. It is basically a desire to get back to the roots Jesus set down for us. And I think what Ryan was referring to was that this conversation he watched was witness to the reality that many people in the world have more of an emergent view point than many churches would take. I feel this is perhaps the problem many non-Christians see in churches and a reason they choose not to come. This is why I feel Emergent churches have risen. Groups of people found the need to have a church that focused their vision primarily and most importantly on Christ's teachings and lifestyle, but I don't consider it a denomination as much as a sort of grass roots effort emerging from within the church.

And Ryan, I loved this post. Thank you for sharing it.

Tim Jeffries

I live in Melbourne Australia and am just about to plant a church here. I have to say that your post must just be a reflection on American culture. I have occassionally come across a not-yet-christian who knows Jesus well in Australia, but generally Aussie's have no clue about him. Often evangelism in this context is about starting at the very beginning with people over long periods of time so they are introduced to Jesus.

Ryan Bolger

Aaron, you are right -- I missed it, but Rich Mouw says it much better than I did -- here is the link at belief net...



Great post! I could not agree more. Honest. I could try, but it would just be a waste of time!

Ryan Bolger

Thanks Tim for noting the cultural differences...


I appreciate the comment, and I agree. I think our leaders ignore large parts of Jesus' teachings, and misinterpret others (e.g. parable of the talents). As Christians, we don't get to pick and choose, keeping "eye for an eye" and ignoring "turn the other cheek."

Clint Walker

I loved this post.

I am taking the conversation part and putting it on my blog.


The issue is not that the world knows more about Jesus than the church does... the issue is that the church (today's church, in very general terms) is honestly terrified to follow Him as we are called to. Why? Because it will cost us - and not many of us are willing to pay the price. Fear is a huge factor in keeping churches from actually living Acts 2:42-47... we are afraid people will leave - and with them goes their wallet. I know how this sounds... but I also know that the God of the Bible will ALWAYS provide for those who TRULY follow Him - not just in word, but in action... may we all be a people who do just that - starting with myself, of course.. (dang, not I have to, huh?)

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  • Hi, welcome to my former blog! My name is Ryan Bolger, and this is where I posted my thoughts on Jesus, culture, new forms of community, among other things. Come visit me at my new blog: http://www.ryanbolger.com. I still teach at Fuller Seminary in Southern California where I'm doing some writing as well. Feel free to bounce around the new or old website -- I hope it might stir your imagination -- feel free to stir mine as well by leaving some comments, preferably at the new site... Peace...


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